Volunteering and traveling in Argentina to proclaim God's great love, and hopefully not getting sick along the way.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Various things

Ticket for Iguazu has been bought. We found a deal for 107 dollar tickets. Not bad at all. I'll have to wait till I get there to buy my return ticket since I have to go to Buenos Aires to leave the country (Uruguay) since it's been six months since I last left. Crazy how time flies. The point though, is I'm excited to share one of Sarah's final weeks here with her and to see Niagra Falls on steroids. Should be fun!

Youth group didn't happen when I went to Jujuy, BUT apparently around 30 youth came for the Sunday event our church held in the local plaza. Carol, who is one of the faithful members brought ALL her friends. How fun is that?

I've paid a couple visits to Betania and Florencia's house lately. They are a couple of our young adults who live nearby and attend the church. It has been a blessing to encourage, be encouraged, and just enjoy maté together.

There is a possibility to help with a camp ministry from August to December. Specifically, to teach juggling. While speaking English. Some coincidences seem too perfect to be called thus. I'm a fan of God's coordination.

Chau for now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Compilation of diary notes, etc. on Jujuy

"You're going to Jujuy?" Marcos asked me. "You know that's the second best province in Argentina?"

"Oh yeah? What's the first?" I asked. "Buenos Aires?"

"First is Salta, you salt-a, and then you say Jujuy!" (Obviously better translated in Spanish, but I enjoyed the pun. Saltar means "to jump", and Jujuy is pronounced as "hoo-hoo-ey". Sort of like "Wee!")

Roadtrip to Jujuy: Sitting next to two boys who truly do not know the meaning of enough. At least they are small and I had much more space to sleep compared to the trip to Chaco. (But honestly, not so bad being next to them. They're still growing, and brothers fight. That's life.)

Saw it on the way back, too. Bazinga.
Riding with a family also means stopping. Stopping to make our initials in the salt plains; stopping for a 2 hour lunch with an old acquaintance; almost stopping to see a momma pig and her chanchitas on the side of the road.

Thoughts on Jujuy: I have a strange sense of calm here. My dreams are tranquil and vivid. When we drove down the main street I kept thinking about how much it reminds me of Krasnodar, Russia. Why don't more main streets have a central walking zone? And of course, a seasoning of 1960s Sanz Peña with every Warhol-color-palette inspired store sign.

The ministry is volunteer-based. I came to share my life with those I meet, and to serve Raúl and Andrea with whatever they might lack. I call this old school missionary time. Look for the needs of the church and put your hands to the wheel. Sometimes you need a plan, sometimes you bring just enough money to get you where you're going then start praying to God to get you (safely) back.

Have I mentioned that I gave all I had brought with me to help pay for gas?

Moments from Saturday: Antonio (momentary father figure for the weekend) made toast for me and even brought out goat cheese, from a family friend's farm, to share.

I have been asked on more than 7 occasions whether or not I am the daughter of Andrea. She makes it clear with everyone that it's because I look so young and not that she looks so old. hehe.

Right after the morning worship my name was called twice. Once, by Luis, who comically would call me "Semilla" (means "seed") when he didn't feel like saying my name correctly. The next, by Jor, who was playing "In the Light" and wanted to make sure that he got the English words correct. This was followed by "Cuan Grande es Dios" which we sang together--I in English, he in Spanish until the final chorus sung in Spanish. Pretty cool. Then he played another song which I recognized but could not remember until the very end. Everyone by this time was singing along and that's when it clicked: "Because He lives... I can face tomorrow..."

Who wouldn't love hanging out with this kid?
Instead of utilizing my only free time to nap, I taught Daniel the basics of "Heart and Soul" on the old house piano. How he made me laugh as he would talk so rapidly to gain the courage to continue. Praying to the Lord, even leaving his place from the piano to fall to his knees and raise his arms, "Dios. Por favor! Ayudanos a hacer tres veces. Sólo tres veces te pido!" We had a routine to touch a small cross, touch a heart and swan decor sitting atop the piano. I kept thinking about how beautiful was this shared moment that I could have missed.

The nights have been what I've always imagined for revivals. We perform short evangelical dramas followed by Raúl's sermonettes. An invitation calls up a small group forward and they pray. A line forms to receive blessings from the pastor; people share their hearts with the rest of us.

I was surprised by a small attack of pre-adolescents when I entered the nightly meeting. They all wanted to sit with me and give me their jewelry. "Now you have to remember me," said Priscilla. They make me smile on the inside as well--knowing how I can just be a servant to them during the youth group meeting during the early afternoon--then set an example of listening to the good news in the evening.

Then comes Sunday: LOCRO!!!!! Locro is a typical South American dish made especially for the winter months. It's a corn soup with meat. And well, Lent is over, so let the carne begin!!! hehe. Actually, the meat is what got me into trouble. We had an all-church Easter lunch (as seen to the left) of locro, and my plate lacked meat. I asked for a little more, but specified that I just wanted la carne. Instead, she plopped another bowlful into my already overflowing bowl. When I couldn't eat it all, everyone looked at me, jokingly, "You know, a good missionary will eat all the food in front of her." So I joked back and switched plates with someone else.

That evening was one in which I was overwhelmed with joy. The music was just the right mix: Te Pertenezco, Al Rey Hosanna and From the Inside Out (of course in Spanish), that I had a great urge to dance. So I got my ahem.. posse.. to join me in some basic moves while we sang. They all laughed at goofy me, but I didn't mind.

We enjoyed more locro for dinner. Regrouping at the church to say our goodbyes and praise God for a great three evenings. I was blessed to walk with Quuime and we sang all the way: Hosanna, hosanna, hosanna in the highest... It was fun to hear her accent, she did not necessarily know the words, but the sounds the words make.

Back home: I enjoyed Jujuy because of the people. One evening in the plaza with Marisel. All the days with the Iriartes enjoying conversation. Plenty of laughter during the drama rehearsals. An afternoon with around 50 preteens playing crazy games.

Los Iriartes

Then again, I also thoroughly enjoyed the landscape.
Seeing the mountains every day (and not just in certain parts of town) brought back the Colorado views I loved most. The town is small enough to see the stars at night too--something I utilized during an evening run.

To the right is a typical road trip picture with the Huertas. You've got your bag of criollos, your very necessary yerba for on-the-road mate, and a buena vista. Tropical covered mountains. Mmm.. I look forward to coming back, Lord willing!

Chau.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feeling Argentinian

30 pesos = 7.50 USD
Yesterday I went to what can only be described as a SWEET AWESOME FERIA. That is, a fair. Very similar to say, a state fair, and only feeling more awesom-er because it's in another country so you get to see things you've never seen before. Ponchos, ukeleles, purses, jewelry, gaucho pants, etc. AND you can put a "handmade" in front of all of those words. I'm telling you it's intense!

It was such a happy atmosphere too. Sarah and I walking up to get the "missionary" discount, and joining literally thousands of people looking for something creative (not hard to find).

I got all sorts of treats, mainly for family or friends (so I can't tell you what I got until I get back), but I did get one thing for me. Another maté. This one is made of metal, so that means I don't have to prepare it like one made of a gourd (more traditional) or one made of wood (which I have from Puerto Madryn).

So while I did my Monday morning cooking routine, I decided to prepare myself some Yerba. Oh I'm soooooo Argentinian now! hehe. Excuse me, jeje.
yummy yummy Orange flavored yerba!!
In other news, I finally received the wedding invite to the Rojas' wedding. Thankfully I still have 4 days to spare in order to RSVP. Unfortunately, don't think I'll make it. [emoticon]

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saving the planet one small child at a time

Today for Escuelita we decided to get everyone together to help clean the plaza in which we play. Naturally, we started with the games just to make sure they still had some fun (wink). Then we also had to entice them with some sort of prize for filling up a plastic bag with trash.

Aside: so thankful that this plaza is not as full of gross trash as the other.

Any way, I got to cleaning, purposefully setting myself by Juancito, a son of one of our church goers. Being one of the youngest at Escuelita, he often just plays on the swings the whole time until his momma comes to pick him up.

"Juancito," I said, "You wanna get a prize?"

"No."

"Ok then." I keep cleaning for a minute or two.

He was pensive, and I pretended not to notice. "Well.. what's the prize?" he inquired.

"I won't say. It's a surprise!"

"A surprise?! What's the surprise?!"

"The prize," I chuckled.

Another minute passes by while Juancito continues to watch me.

"What do I have to do to win the prize?"

I smile. "Oh it's so easy! All you have to do is fill up a bag with trash that makes this plaza so dirty."

He grabbed a bag and immediately got to work, grabbing a handful of grass. "Can I just stuff the bag with pasto?" (pronounced pah-stow)

"No... but things like this," I show him an example of torn newspaper.

I worked by his side and kept saying how great he was doing. "And look!" he would shout. "I found more over here!!"

Aside: it's just got to be a competition...

At one point he stopped and looked at me. We had encouraged another young boy about his age to help us too, and this one was very enthusiastic about finding more trash to throw away. Juancito commented, "We need to clean up the trash to take care of our planet, don't we?"

"You are absolutely right," I replied. "Because we only have one earth that God gave us."

"We need to clean up the planet that God gave us," he reassured himself. The other boy said it too.

My hope is to teach the young ones to set an example for the rest of us. Though slightly discouraged to see a giant plume of smoke rise from the Las Violetas area as a sign of burning trash (what timing), I told myself that things can change. If we keep up this pattern of cleaning up the plaza every few weeks, perhaps the kids will be more adamant about keeping it clean. Perhaps they'll turn in disgust the way I do as I walk the neighborhoods and see trash everywhere. Saddened when someone unwraps their candy or what-have-you and just tosses the wrapper to the ground.

Perhaps they'll want to make a difference by putting things in their proper place... chau.

-----
UPDATE: Just talked with a parent of another kid who had helped clean up. Apparently he had come home on Saturday and proudly said, "Mom! I helped put order to the plaza today!" She told me about how excited he was to put hands to the things he is learning about at school.

"They teach the kids to take care of the planet, but they don't always get opportunities to do so," she told me.

We continued to discuss how dangerous some of the plazas are that are full of broken glass and needles. I have had other conversations about the plastic bag regulation some stores are instilling, and the new recycle bins in some of the more popular areas of the city. I have higher hopes for the cleanliness of Cordoba, but I must remember that it's something that will take time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The morning after

If you haven’t read the blog about three birthday parties, I suggest you do so here.

Otherwise, you're just going to get a few more details. Like this morning's. I woke up to my alarm. I always keep my alarm set for either 7am or 8:30am. I gave myself some grace, but also knew that I needed to get back to the house to insure no one would worry about me.

I had received a facebook invite to a friend's mom's birthday party. Later, I found out it was also another friend's birthday and they would be celebrating together. But that's normal. Normal to share parties for economic sake, and normal to be invited when you only sort-of know someone (but also okay if you're just a stranger as well).

When I joined the crowd, I recognized most of the faces. I still struggle to meet every single person upon arrival with an air kiss on the right cheek. It's an expectation that makes me wish I arrived earlier so I wouldn't have to go up to as many people. 'It's nicer when they come to me,' I think selfishly. But I'm getting used to it.

Typically there's chorizo, empanadas and hamburgers to go around. Coca cola, Pritty/Suitty (rivals in the carbonated beverage industry), as well as Fernet (an alcoholic beverage you add to Coke).

We sit around and chat about all sorts of things. Many people that I meet for the first time like to converse about my strange name, and often take several minutes trying to figure it out. They often give up, "Ah! No me sale bien!" I just reassure them that I know who they're talking to when they try.

Fer and I started a game of naming mammals, and everyone to my surprise joined us. The one rule was there were no repeats, and it was funny to see everyone get excited about remembering another mammal.

I find myself getting to parties, but not always knowing how I get home. The bus isn't always reliable, and sometimes out of the way. I've hitched rides when necessary. It's just whatever you choose, you don't leave early. Last night no one would let me walk to the bus stop alone (and had the typical five minute argument about whether it's still running that late any way), so my new friend Fany offered me her bed. We had a mini-sleepover as another girl who lives near me stayed too.

We giggled till about 3am and I felt like a teenager again. Tired, but happy. Home, but no quite. I especially loved the fresh morning air as I sleepily headed back to the bus stop. Yawning, I crawled back into bed with every intention of sleeping till noon (I was successful I might add).

To the point of no return

I began this post in the middle of March. Currently reading another book of the Bible, but needed to get this out there...

As I continue to read Jeremiah, I come face to face with the reality of how much God desires and requires justice for His people. His eyes are always on the oppressed (you can see this trend in Psalms as well); he always asks for us to take care of widows and orphans. These ideas broaden my perspective on what it means to be a missionary as well.

Why are we here? We are here to give our lives. The best phrase I know that sums it up is "To know Him and make Him known." Who are we, and where is here is something worth mentioning. We generally refers to Christians. Here includes wherever you are with the opportunity to serve for the sake of Christ. This last sentence should help us realize that it's not always a particular place, but exactly where we've been planted. However, no one ever said it was going to be easy. Just take a look at the life of most of the prophets with books named after them to know this.

In particular, Jeremiah reaches a point in which he says, "I wish I had never been born!"

Immediately the life of Job came to mind. I'm pretty sure he had said something about wishing he'd never escaped from his mother's womb too. Or something of that graphic nature... What I'm trying to say is both had really great relationships with God, and yet both regret being alive.

These terse paragraphs are weak descriptions of something bigger. To summarize, we are small. We are called by God in the midst of our smallness to serve Him around the world. At first, most of us (see Moses) think it has to do with who we are (or if we're wise like Jeremiah, we realize He's crazy for picking us when He can do the job so much better!). After awhile, we start to see the bigger picture of what God is talking about.

Namely, to love justice, show mercy, and walk humbly with our God.

It's not until we see the world (which includes a lot of our carnal nature) for what she truly is that we too become angry at the despicable nature of sin. That's the point at which we wish we had never come to be in the first place. When we see sin for what it is, it's something we realize we don't want anything to do with any more.

Paul talks about this in Philippians. He knows that to just get the death thing over with and be with Christ is so much better, but for the sake of the church he remains. Job, Jeremiah, Paul... showing that one can long for death, yet live in glorious expectation. After all, once you come this far, there's no turning back.

Chau.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Just another day in L.V.

Mondays, I've been assisting in Las Violetas. Namely, helping out with Maria Sol in el Refugio, who teaches basic handcrafts. It's a great way for kids to spend some time after school away from some of the more dark pockets of that neighborhood, and to learn a little bit about the Bible.

Work in el Refugio is not easy. Similar to the boys institute work, you have children who don't know what it's liked to be loved. Most of these children come from bigger families living in homes built for 2 (according to standards in the States); parents engulfed in drugs or drinking; older brothers and sisters already starting families around the ages of 15 or 16 if not sooner. They lack attention, and very much lack discipline.

You'll have some sweet kids in there--the Santis and the Katis that just want to show you their talents. Today Santi talked up a storm and was very helpful throughout the time of pasting the newspaper onto the small rectangles of cardboard. "Enseño, mira!"

But as I've said before and say again, Las Violetas is hard. I pray on my walk over there. Pray for safety, pray for a desire to clean up. Trash is tossed nonchalantly to the ground, and the smell of sewage is pungent. I prayed hard when a group of teenagers much bigger than I passed close by (we all walk in the middle of the street) because I could smell the marijuana and was on the brink of gagging. I know these kids need Jesus, and it is heartbreaking to think about a dim future for children who are loved by God full of grace. It reminds me of a verse in Philippians that begins much like this paragraph:

For as I have told you often before and now say again with great tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, the god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.

It seems to me that the need is to help them look up. In the U.S., we are all taught that dreams are possible. That whatever the obstacle, we can attain it as long as we put our mind to it. Here, they do not have the same luxury of thinking further than the present. How could we teach them to stop looking at what everyone else is doing, and start dreaming? Taking that a step further, to set their eyes on Christ, who by the power that enables him, will put all things under his control and transform us!

Chau.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Trees

That's right. This post will be about trees.

Currently going through (over and over) the beginning of the Bible, I think about the trees of the garden of Eden. The LORD God made trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food, first of all. This gives pause more than ever after choosing a vegetarian lifestyle for forty days. How many different kinds of fruits ("trees that bear fruit with seed in it" according to Scripture) can I add to my palate, to maintain variety? And when I take the time to look at the fruit, indeed, they are aesthetically pleasing. The roundness of the pear, the beautiful mixture of red and yellow in the skin of the apple.

CRUNCH. Most definitely good for food. Sweet juices trickle down the side of my mouth which my tongue enthusiastically wipes clean.

Then there were two other trees. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did the tempter neglect to deceive the woman to eat from the first tree? What did he know that she didn't?

The end of the Bible then talks about that first tree. The tree of life will heal the nations; the curse will be lifted (curse of sin?). But before we get to the end, Psalm 1 also talks about a tree that always bears its fruit in season, never withers, always prospers. Taking root in the Word of God.

Yesterday, I watched a video about the earth. One that talked about how we need to be careful at how we use its limited resources. I thought of the scene in Evan Almighty where the God character shows Evan how he had intended the land to look. Certainly, we have a lot of cleaning up to do, just as there are many ways in which we could be living off of much less.

But the part of the trees also got to me. The narrator had said something about how trees are the only living creatures that perpetually defy gravity. They feed off the sun and transform its energy into leaves and wood. Sure its roots dig deep for water, but what about this idea of looking to the sun to provide real life?

Later the narrator talks about how we penetrate the depths of the earth to sequester as much coal and oil as we can for ourselves, and that in the end, it really just leads to the destruction of our planet. What if we stopped looking inside for answers, and followed the example of the trees? What if we instead looked to the Son for our source of energy/life? Might there be less dangerous side-effects? Might this be what it means to see this healing of the nations talked about in Revelation?

Chau.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I haven't forgotten

I have been needing to update on girls' institute life. It has a lot to do with not being much to share, but nonetheless, worth a blog.

When we first arrived, we had one girl--Belen. She happened to be a difficult one from last year. I remember trying to talk with her, but she simply would never talk back. And not the timid not talk, but the gives me a slight scowl not talk. Intimidating.

We had the idea that this year, we could bring Eva from our OM team along more often, because she is a very talented woman (she continues to surprise me with all that she can make or do!). So for the first week, we tested it out by having Eva teach some basic crochet. Turns out, Belen just needs something to keep her concentration. She did a great job with the basic circle and in fact, brought a small pizza size circle of blue yarn with her the next week completed. You should have seen the look of pride in her face!

Unfortunately, she was gone within the next week, and we have been with Jessica ever since. Jessica has always been easy to please. I think she just likes hanging out with people, although she does love living in such a large facility without anyone else to fight with. So far we have made bracelets, done a little bit of crochet, and drawn together.

The challenge with the girls' institute is not only that there are so few girls and it often feels like we don't accomplish much, but also the fact that it's hard to get good conversation going. I ask basic questions as much as I can--how are you? how is school? what did you do this weekend?--but the answers are often terse. I could use prayer for perseverance as well as ideas for good questions given my still limited Spanish (though praise God for how much has been learned thus far!). Prayer to keep the conversation going between us!

I am encouraged that there is always an open door for us, as every director has gotten more involved with our time spent together. There have even been weeks where is just the extranjeros, Sarah and I, going by ourselves and without the fear we probably would have had last spring. I also see one of the director's during my weekly walks, and we always shoot the breeze a bit before continuing on. Nonetheless, I know there is more we can do for them!

Chau.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Happy birthday x3 (long but worth it!)

I am averaging a Cordobes (pronounced cor-doh-bess) birthday party a week, and each one of them has been very special.

It started off with an asado for the landlady of Maria Elena. She turned 91! An age, if I recall correctly, reached by my great grandfather, and this particular party was reminiscent of one of his later birthday fiestas held in Kingsville when I was a kid. I remember how many family members, perfect strangers, and random activities were involved. This one came close.

For one, I felt like one of the perfect strangers. In fact, I was equally reminded of one birthday party at my friend's neighbor's house. Ariel H. and I had been playing in her backyard when we noticed a sweet bounce house being assembled next door. Disregard the fact that we were in high school, our eyes were getting pretty big, and I still thank God that the neighbor saw our bounce house lust and invited us over. I remember how freely that family offered us food and drink, and talked to me as if we had known each other since grade school.

For la dueña, Maria Elena spent all morning preparing the side dishes while her husband Carlos prepared the meat. The "boys," the landlady's grandson and friends, huddled around fernet and beer, and the children ran all through the patio/backyard/dining area. If the meat wasn't enough, don't forget the two-tiered cake ME had prepared along with three flavors of ice cream from a local artesan.

The memory I'll take with me is probably the moment of the gift giving. Luciano, the grandson, brought forth the present they had me wrap just minutes before--a digital picture frame. First of all, there was the generational gap in terms of understanding the capacity of this technology. She clearly didn't get it, and the rest of her family took a long time explaining it to her. When they finally turned it on, the family had pre-uploaded pictures of the woman and her family from long ago.

You should have heard her shriek. And then almost pull the frame too fast, out of socket, causing it to break. All was well though, and she became more astonished as the pictures changed. She kept thinking that whatever was showing was the last one, and didn't wait for any of the others until reassured there were more. Adorable.

Then came an invite from Fer (or Fernando) for his 18th:

He was actually dressed like this for the third birthday, but I'll get to that later. You can just say he was wearing a New York Yankees shirt (without the knowledge of what the NY symbol is about), and it was against my religion to take a picture of that. Just kidding.

The party was planned in typical Argentinian fashion. Told to arrive at the church at 7pm, our guide to the bus didn't come until 7:45pm. During that time, Chichilo was sent to two different homes to remind people to come over. Oh, and he was sent at 7:30, which means we did not actually head out until 8:15 or so. Then on our way to the bus, we picked up another person who just happened to cross paths with us.

As for the bus, 45min long. I had not realized how far Fer has to travel to get to youth group, and thought more about this during the "5 or 6 blocks" (make that 9 or 10) in the utter darkness of his neighborhood. A neighborhood that brought back wonderful memories of the quadrangular dirt paths of Chaco.

When we arrived, the home was made of exposed cement blocks. His family welcomed us in, always making it a point that whoever enters is practically family. I met the rest of his siblings, and extended family, while Jorge immediately grabbed the guitar and played duets with Elias, the older brother. The music reverberated against the walls; it was hard to hear, but I was still able to carry good conversations with various folk throughout the dining room/living room that extended to a tight kitchen and small bathroom.

The youth group that had come gathered around for a time of praise and worship and afterward, Raul and Andrea had the idea to give gifts of encouragement. We went around the circle, and I felt the chills of the Holy Spirit as people expressed how much of an example Fer is to their lives. Then, in classic Argentinian, the man of the hour cried as he extended gratitude to all who had come. Seriously, men have no shame here, and for the most part, I love it!

This was definitely the highlight of the night. Soon after, we dispersed again while I hitched a ride from the Mullers. The following morning I was going to the zoo with the boys (por fin!), while the unbeknownst plan among the rest was to stay until 5am since busses were no longer running. Emm.. false.

Finally, the cumple de quince. No, they do not call it a quinceniera here. In fact, if you use that term, they will only look at you funny. 

A girl from the youth group at Raul and Andrea's church had, you know, about 200 people coming to her grandparents house in the country to celebrate her 15th birthday. I was invited not by her, but by her cousins, and I was definitely coming. I was also definitely buying a dress for the occasion, and was glad I did, because well, look at how well dressed the boys were:
Gonzalo, Johnny, Fer, Chichilo, and Juliano
But here's the kicker. The party started at 4 or 4:30pm. As I had youth group during that time, we (Maria Sol and Nieves) didn't arrive until 8pm. We missed out on the 4+ hours of entertainment including foosball, ping pong, a mechanical bull and a bounce house (NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!), so everyone was still in their gym clothes hanging around when we got there. When I asked where miss Abigail was though, a nonchalant, "Oh, she hasn't arrived yet," was the response.

Around 9 or 9:30pm everyone scrunched into the farm house, thing, to change into prom like attire. Women sharing hair straighteners, two bathrooms, three rooms, makeup and deodorant bustled through the building, while the guys had an outhouse like attachment to the building in which they changed, one at a time. People gawking "Ooooh!!!!" and "Que hermosa!!" for everyone's transformation.

Around 11 or 11:30pm we started gathering around the tables in preparation to eat. But before we could eat, we had to wait for the guest of honor. In the meantime, a couple bands practiced, music played over the loud speaker, and about 4 or 5 times, there was a power outage. My guess, due to overexertion.

Finally, I don't remember when, because my mind was occupied by the stomach, Abi arrived with her welcome tune of "My heart will go on" by Celine Dion playing not once, but twice. After all, she had to give personal salutations, and take photos, with every guest attending. (I showed grace by just going and snapping a picture of her in her princess costume, unaware.)
Que hermosa!
Finally, the food! Granted, I couldn't eat most of it, but that didn't stop me from smelling it! (Yes, that is an entire cow cut in half and cooking for several hours under the flame.)

Then a bunch of people sang/spoke/sang some more. Seriously, it's as if it turned into a talent show. The announcer/emcee type would say, "Hey uncle, you can sing, why don't you come up here and hum us a few bars?" (my translation) And without hesitation, we were entertained for at least a quarter of an hour. In fact, at one point, another said, "Hey everyone did you know we have someone from Texas here?"

I was playing Uno at this point with most of the youth group, so I'll admit that all I had heard was "Texas" and so I looked up and gave a thumbs up (Oh Texas pride, how it can get you every time...). Turns out, he was wanting me to come up and give a few words as to what I was doing in Argentina. Following suit, I came to the front and mumbled the basics. "Hello.. yep.. I'm a missionary.. my name? Oh, it's Sha-ray-uh.. (pause for everyone to test it out).. I work with teenagers.. so happy to be here.. thanks for the invite.. etc. etc." Awkward and normal can be placed within the same moment.

What else? Various fun moments including getting to use "Chavon" with Chichilo and everyone cracking up at me. A possibly drunk young man whining, or so it sounded like, through several Maroon 5 songs to show how well he knows English (ha). A 9 year old singing "Montaña" and everyone getting into it. Great conversations with various people about how cool it is to celebrate the work of God in community like on this night. Watching the numbers slowly dwindle as people escaped to the tents in the back, or squeezing around 8 people on a bed. The tradition of pulling a string from a bowl filled with rocks (the birthday girl gets to hold it), and seeing if there's a ring at the other end of the string. That signifies that you're getting married within the next year. Then there was waiting at the bus stop at 5:30am.. again at 7am.. finally coming home for a shower and much needed rest.

All this makes up, for me at least, not being able to be there to watch my nephew celebrate his first year of life and stuff his face with cake. I still wish I could have been there, as well as at my mom's and a couple of my cousin's birthdays as of late. God has blessed me with family here, and some new adventures to share! Oh how I love culture! Chau.